tv Hardball Weekend MSNBC February 26, 2012 7:00am-7:30am EST
lost in the trees. let's play "hardball." >> good evening. i'm chris matthews down in washington. leading off tonight, tree hugger. nothing mitt romney has said during the campaign has generated more ridicule than his comment that the trees in michigan are the right height. so what did mitt do today in detroit? he said it again. then to show he was a regular guy, he added that he owns a mustang, a chevy pickup and, here it comes, that his wife drives a couple of cadillacs. a couple of cadillacs. that will endear him to blue collar voters, won't it? republicans like jeb bush fear the election is slip away from them. the new nbc news battleground
map suggests they may be right. mitt was in detroit to push his plan but the optics didn't help. check out the scene. 1200 people there at ford field where the lions play football which means romney addressed 65,000 empty seats. who is the guy's advance man on this one? doesn't help that romney opposed the auto bailout and that's wildly popular in michigan. plus, culture wars. the ultrasound bill in virginia, not to mention the recently dropped personhood bill there, threatens to reaffirm for millions of independent women that the gop has lurched too far to the right on issues important to them. and the oscars are sunday night. this year it looks like liberal hollywood plans to stick it to the right wing by celebrating a french movie. another one about paris and a third one spotlighting white southern racism in the 1960s. finally, let me finish tonight with a tribute to a great comedian who was the first to mimic this silent movie era.
we begin with the 2012 race. and mitt romney's connection problem. chuck todd is nbc's political director and chief white house correspondent and holds innumerable other titles. and major garrett is white house correspondent for national review. you poor man. >> national journal. >> you have a couple of titles. >> national journal. not national review. >> mitt romney's had a problem delivering a large message for what he'd do the next five years or four years. but he also seems to have a problem with the simplest thing of talking to people. he talked about the trees being the right height and everyone thought he was chauncey gardner from "being there." let's watch him. then he did it again today. his big economic speech at ford field in detroit. mitt romney spoke to an audience. well, we've got -- 1200 people. in a football stadium that holds 65,000 people. not the ideal message of a thunderous overflowing crowd you'd want to see heading into a critical primary. would you? and incredibly, he brought up the michigan trees again. and his family's multiple cars. let's watch.
>> just feels good being back in michigan. you know, the trees are the right height. the streets are just right. i like the fact that most of the cars i see are detroit-made automobiles. i drive a mustang and a chevy pickup truck. ann drives a couple of cadillacs, actually. >> a couple of cadillacs. the very poor. severely conservative. english. >> i don't -- it's funny. this is an issue the campaign itself knows this is an issue. he has this awkwardness about him. >> what's a couple of cadillacs mean to a guy who has no cars? what does a couple -- >> of all things to pick. it could have simply been a couple of gm cars or a couple of other american cars and it wouldn't have felt so odd, obviously, with the cadillac. but, you know, we do this too much. i'm not crazy about putting politicians on the couch. >> i like to fire people. >> i get the sense that romney has been uncomfortable with the
message he's had to sell for the last year and a half. he's running -- he's having to run in a way that wouldn't be ideal for him. where his comfort zone is. he's sort of a republican technocrat. that isn't where he is. and he can't run that way. i feel like all of this has -- and that's what gets these weird ad lib moments. >> let me try this. you are a fair man. both of you are. suppose he was in a board room with a bunch of other people and talking about, we own a couple of cadillacs, no problem. i like firing people. certainly sounds right among that crowd. he's used to talking to people with a lot of money or people under him who are used to the fact he has a lot of money and comes from a lot of money. now he's out there trying to sell himself as joe bag o' doughnuts, joe six pack. what do you say? it's not translating. >> there is and has always been for romney a disconnect issue. and there's two dynamics in this primary caucus process. you have had notional voters. the notional voters have gone after every front-runner. michele bachmann, rick perry, herman cain.
the notion of someone who is not romney has attracted them. they fall in love. they fall out of love. then you've had the rational republican voters. i'm not saying those who are notion are rational, or those who are not notional are only rational. they say this is the best we've got. following the william f. buckley rule. probably the most conservative republican who can get elected. not the most conservative but the one who can get elected. even with all of romney's otherwise visible rhetorical maladies. wherever he goes off script. whenever he tries this organic authenticity. it falls flat. >> we've seen this before. >> the dynamic rational notional will play out in arizona and michigan and it will have brought santorum close but i me predict michigan and arizona -- >> we saw this in 2000 with al gore. al gore was uncomfortable running in his own -- something about how he had to run was not the way he wanted to run. he himself later admitted it. you get that sense that that's what -- >> he did get tired of trying.
>> and get tired of trying to run -- >> those of us who analyze constantly badger these candidates, whether gore or romney, about whatever it is, their central rhetorical defect is, the more they focus on it. the more they focus on it, the bigger a problem it becomes. >> is he walking back into the room having his handler say, what are you talking about, governor, are they afraid to talk to him? >> that's a good question. i get the sense there isn't somebody that's -- this feels oddly disjointed sometimes. i'm not 100% convinced there's somebody that goes to him and says, boy, you really messed that one up. i don't get that sense. >> what did mackinnon do? what does stewart stevens say? those guys seem to be vocal people. >> obviously, we're not privy to the most important conversations along this line. what you have seen and can note consistently is there has not been a noticeable ability for romney to shift and shift effectively in this realm. >> let's take a look at this. governor jeb bush, former governor jeb bush of florida always the guy on the bench now. he told a dallas audience yesterday, "i used to be a
conservative and i watch these debates and i'm wondering. i don't think i've changed but it's a little troubling sometimes when people are appealing to people's fears and emotions rather than get them to look over the horizon for a broader perspective. and that's kind of where we are. i think it changes when we get to the general election. i hope. now here he is more concerned about the other kinds of candidates. he also told a local reporter he wouldn't jump into the race. that one of the candidates apparently currently running would be the nominee. i think that's true. but he stressed the importance. this is jeb bush again, of not forgetting independent voters. let's watch jeb bush. >> it's important for the candidates to recognize, though, that they have to appeal to primary voters and not turn off independent voters that will be part of a winning coalition. >> now maim, it seems like he's more talking about santorum than the things about newt gingrich talking about the moon and strange things. almost like two guys. the rational guy, that's certainly mitt romney. and the more notional, the ones with -- let's try this guy, kind of thing. what a strange campaign this is. >> it's been a strange campaign. the most important takeaway is don't get the white horse ready for me because i'm not your
white knight. i'm not coming in to rescue you. that's the bottom line most important takeaway. don't look for me to rescue this situation if you think it needs rescuing. point number one. point two, remember, within the bush family and that tea party aspect and activist wing of the party there's always been antipathy. it's grown since 2006. tea partiers do not consider themselves bush republicans. bush republicans and bush republicanism, even under george w. bush, somewhat in minimum high regard. so jeb bush is not exactly the spokesperson for that wing of the party when they hear him say that. they don't say there's something wrong with me. they are more inclined to say there's something wrong with jeb. >> there is a little bit of jeb was more the trusted conservative of the two. especially now. >> much more philosophic than w. >> it is fascinating how all of the most effective hits on santorum by romney at the debate the other night were for things santorum supported which were
bush initiatives. >> exactly. >> as much bashing as the bush administration, republican years to -- >> the santorum record. >> why did you support no child left behind? why did you support the bailout? >> that was a w. thing. >> let's take a look. we've got to get to the map here. this is friday. you have your new nbc battleground map of which way states are leaning. for general election. the magic number to win the presidential election is 270 electoral votes. let's start with the democrats. this map shows the 18 states and district of columbia in blue that are either solidly, likely or leaning democrat. electoral votes out of the 227 right now. put that down. 227 for the democratic side as of now leaning or likely or there solidly. now to the republican side. this is the red map. this map shows the 24 red states either solidly, likely or again, leaning republican. these states amount to 197 electoral votes. here's how the complete map looks right now with red and blue together. there it is. it's almost filled up. plus the eight toss-up states
that could go either way. 118 electoral votes there. currently in those grab state lists there -- nevada, colorado, florida, north carolina, virginia, ohio, pennsylvania. wow. pennsylvania and new hampshire. well, what do you know. pennsylvania is a toss-up state. >> right now. we'll see if it hangs in there. >> it's always been democratic. >> the shift for us was the industrial midwest. wisconsin and michigan. both of those in toss-ups a couple of months ago. both of those shifts. the only thing that shifted from democrat -- shifted the republican way in our map is iowa. and part of that, and you talk to some folks in team obama. and they will tell you, you had for six months, republican messaging, anti-obama messaging sitting there. and it has taken a toll and it's both in public and private polling we've seen. it's taken a toll. in iowa, it's not they're okay with the social conservatism a little more. the sort of rural white blue
collar vote that could be up for grabs. >> thank you, chuck todd. thank you, major garrett. mitt romney spoke to a crowd of 1,200 today in a football stadium that held 65,000 potentially. the bigger challenge for romney might be explaining to michigan voters why he opposed the auto bailout which saved the auto industry which explains what you're talking about, the shift in the industrial states back to obama because of this stuff. opposing the car industry. except for the two, well, the couple of cadillacs his wife's got. that's ahead. [ sniffs ] i have a cold. [ sniffs ] i took dayquil
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here's romney taking a step at that argument at wednesday night's debate. >> i wrote an op ed in the paper and i said absolutely not. these companies need to go through a managed bankruptcy just like airlines have and other industries have. go through a managed bankruptcy. and if they go through the managed bankruptcy and shed the excess of cost put on them by the uaw and their own mismanagement, then if they need help coming out of bankruptcy, the government can provide guarantees and get them back on their feet. >> well, just the proof that he had that audience stacked out there. they applauded the word bankruptcy. no audience in america applauds the word bankruptcy unless they were cued to do it by a bunch of whips now the the audience. which is what he had going there. anyway. steve rattner was the lead
adviser on president obama's auto task force and john heileman. msnbc political analyst and writes for "new york" magazine. gentlemen, i want to start with steve. take a look at something you wrote in today's "new york times." you wrote romney's managed bankruptcy plan, quote, sounds like a wonderfully sensible approach, except that it's utter fantasy. i've heard you say this before, but remind us. what is his plan and would it have killed the auto industry? >> you just heard him say he wanted them to go through bankruptcy and if government needed to help on the way out, they could. the problem with his idea is that if the auto industry had gone into a so-called managed bankruptcy, it would have never come out. in late 2008 when bush first gave them money and 2009 when president obama did, there wasn't a penny of private capital anywhere in the system that had any interest in financing these companies. they would have shut their doors, laid off their workers and liquidated and put over 1 million people out of work. >> the reason the government had to cough up the money with the guarantees was because there
wasn't anybody out there saying, i'd love to invest in the auto industry. >> correct. look. nobody -- none of us, anyway, like the idea of government intervening in these industries. we didn't do it because we wanted to. we did it because we had to. it was a unique moment in time. a unique moment in american business and financial history when there simply wasn't any private capital available. and our view was that that's what government was there to do, to step in when markets fail. >> let me go over to john on this. the success of the auto industry right now is really, i have to tell you, one of those things you never expected to happen. i mean, i'm obviously a civilian in terms of the economy out there. but the fact that it came back so big. we've got three auto companies. we've got cars, what is it, ford now number one? it's unbelievable. they are taking on the foreign challengers. they are doing so well. this is a victory for obama, isn't it, politically? >> well, yeah. it certainly is. steve makes the correct point there really was -- people try to take this out of context. it was an extraordinary moment. it wasn't just people weren't people willing to invest in car companies, there was just no private capital in that period. given the state of the economy and financial system after the near collapse. barack obama and his team with steve and others felt like this was the necessary thing to do.
it was a huge gamble in some ways. if it hadn't worked out as well as it has, it could have been a huge political albatross. around his neck. instead, he's got a great club to beat mitt romney with or whatever the republican nominee is. rick santorum also opposed the auto bailout. he opposed he says, all bailouts. barack obama won michigan in 2008 without this kind of success behind him. he won even places like mccom county, home of the reagan democrats, by 7 points. with this as his main calling card, it's going to be hard for a republican to beat him in michigan. >> i think also in ohio and missouri. let me show president obama's super pac priorities usa. they released this ad hitting romney this week. >> his message was clear. >> let detroit go bankrupt. >> mitt romney. there's no question he made a fortune from businesses he helped destroy. >> bankrupt, bankrupt. >> romney pocketed huge fees shortly before companies collapse. >> bankrupt, bankrupt.
>> even when the businesses failed, romney came out ahead. are those the values we want in an american president? >> bankrupt, bankrupt. >> well, steve, you have really done the country a service here working for president obama. i want to ask you a little secret. maybe you can't tell me. what gave you the -- you remember after world war ii, you don't remember but you know from history how all that you had to do was reopen the trading zones in europe. that's what the marshall plan was about. get those countries that had gone through world war ii, get them trading again. re-create what's already there. the strong financial structure. and economic trading structure of europe. get it back on its feet. how did you know there were still fundamentals there in the american auto industry that could compete? >> we didn't know for sure but we did the work you do. we treated this like a private equity investment exercise i'd done in the private sector and my colleagues had done. we went in there and we tore these companies apart through due diligence, put them back together. consulted a lot of experts. we believed there was nothing fundamentally wrong with these companies. they were efficient, making better products.
they had too much debt, too many liabilities, and frankly they had some costs, including some for labor, that weren't sustainable. and it was a restructuring exercise. we felt confident about general motors, we felt pretty confident about chrysler. frankly, they've actually exceeded our expectations. they've done a fabulous job. >> can we do this across the board? ed schultz my colleague talks about it a lot. i care about it a lot. this area between pennsylvania and wisconsin. can we rebuild american manufacturing the way we rebuilt the auto industry? is it big enough, this idea here, to go across the board? >> no, unfortunately, i don't think this model fits completely. this was a unique set of circumstances with companies that had been mismanaged for a long time. built up liabilities for a long time. the fact is that we can do better in manufacturing. we are doing better. but we have to remember that we are competing against a lot of countries that are also doing better at much, much lower wages. >> thank you, again a great service to the country in bringing back the auto industry.
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back to "hardball." now for the sideshow. first up, strategy session that may have sounded like the most straightforward of questions at wednesday night's debate when the four gop candidates were asked to simply describe themselves in just one word. still some of us were a bit thrown when newt gingrich went with cheerful. here's jon stewart weighing in on the debate and gingrich's one-word description of himself. let's watch. >> believe it or not, the 20th debate of this campaign season. one more and the debates will be able to drink legally. mostly to forget about the
terrible things they've heard. in these debates. newt gingrich who throughout the night articulated a worldview that made him sound like he'd grown up during the great depression, several world wars and had the bubonic plague. >> virtually anywhere in the world could be in danger at virtually any minute. we're now looking at an abyss. all of us are more at risk today, men and women, boys and girls, than at any time in the history of this country. >> all right. after all that, i'm almost afraid to hear gingrich's one word for himself. >> cheerful. >> well, maybe newt gingrich is cheerful because he likes it when things go bad. think about that, jon. next up. what a difference four years makes. arizona senator john mccain may be backing romney these days but that was the farthest thing from the truth back in 2008. and progressive super pac
american bridge 21st century is out with a new ad giving us a flashback to some of mccain's favorite descriptions of mitt romney when they were both vying for the presidential nomination. let's watch. >> one thing we should give governor romney credit for. he is consistent. he's consistently taken both sides of any major issue. he's consistently flip-flopped on every issue. on cap and trade. he supported it. he supported it. so he's consistent in that he flip-flopped. i haven't changed my position on even numbered years or have changed because of the different offices that i may be running for. i don't know how to respond to a lot of his charges because tomorrow he may have a different position. i just want to say to governor romney, we disagree on a lot of issues, but i agree you are the candidate of change. >> what's with that insane giggle he has this? it doesn't help that he keeps
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